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The Scarlet & Black

Exit in Faulconer

By Emma Sinai-Yunker

This past Tuesday, the Faulconer Gallery opened its doors for an evening screening of Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

There’s something incredibly enjoyable about the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which follows a filmmaker named Theirry Guetta as he trails street artists across cities and as he eventually creates a name for himself in that world.  Whenever he appears in front of the camera he usually wields, one can’t help but compare Guetta’s looks to a young Ron Jeremy—long curly black hair accompanied by massive sideburns and an equally impressive mustache. Guetta sits in front of the camera and delivers a story of his artistic rise as if it’s a story that no one would believe.

With Banksy’s name tagged on the film, maybe we shouldn’t. Banksy is a reclusive British street artist whose hype for the film is what attracted viewers. What one encounters as they watch the film, is a sense that they may be a part of one of Banksy’s notorious cons.

Guetta infiltrates the street art world by way of his cousin, a street artist known as Space Invader, and a powerful obsession with cameras. After meeting Shepard Fairey, the creator of Obey and the well know images of Obama’s Hope campaign, Guetta travels the world and meets countless international street artists. He becomes a kind of accomplice, looking out for police and helping when he can, but he never stops filming.

The art in the film is remarkable and at times even breathtaking. The risks that artists will take to put the pieces up are impressive and require some real daring. It’s amazing to watch the love Banksy and Fairey have for their mediums and the risks they are willing to take to get it out into the public. Guetta records them scaling buildings and running from police in the dead of night.

As the plot progresses, the documentary focuses on street art’s developing acceptance in the art world. What started as a counter culture responding to society through what some may call vandalism or graffiti suddenly became a highly desired collector’s item. No personal art collection was complete without a Fairey or Banksy. Artists whose masterpieces were covered or removed days after they were placed now found themselves earning thousands of dollars from enthusiastic and wealthy fans.

As Banksy sees his beloved medium becoming more and more mainstream and moving farther from all that it once stood for, he asks Guetta for the footage of street artists in a hope to preserve, or at least commemorate, the original form of the art. The documentary he receives from Guetta is a mess, and so Banksy suggests that Guetta go home, do some art, and leave the footage with him.

Guetta takes this a little too seriously and decides to throw his entire life away in order to buy a studio and hire people to create his visions of art. This is where the film begins to acquire that glorious air of a con. Guetta begins calling himself a street artist by the name of “Mister Brainwash,” and decides to put on a show of his art to rival Banksy’s recent show in L.A. Without any prior knowledge of putting on a show, and no experience creating art, Guetta throws himself into the world of commercialized street art. His visions, or pieces of work Guetta thought up and had others create for him, receive reluctant hype from Banksy and Fairey. In response, an enormous number of people from L.A. and all around flock to his art show and purchase pieces for upwards of ten thousand dollars, while street artists everywhere who have real credentials stand baffled.

Overall, this is an incredibly gratifying documentary to watch. The art is beautiful and the artists themselves are inspiring. It is a wonderful commentary on the way that mainstream society can change art for better or worse and on the way that artists cope with this change.
“I was surprised by how impressive a lot of the street art was, and how devoted the artists were to their art,” said Matt Miller ’15, who attended the screening. “I think that most people see graffiti as vandalism that criminals or gangs put up, and it’s refreshing to see it portrayed in a way that respects it as a legitimate form of art.”

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